Advent, from the Latin word adventus meaning "coming", is a period
of spiritual preparation in which many Christians make themselves ready for the
coming, or birth of the Lord, Jesus Christ. During this time, Christians observe
a season of prayer, fasting and repentance, followed by anticipation, hope and joy.
Many Christians celebrate Advent not only by thanking God for Christ's first
coming to Earth as Savior, but also for his presence among us today through the
Holy Spirit, and in preparation and anticipation of his final coming at the end
of the Tribulation.
In Western Christianity, Advent begins on the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas Day,
or the Sunday which falls closest to November 30, and lasts through Christmas Eve,
or December 24. When Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday, it is the last, or fourth
Sunday of Advent.
Many Christian churches use Advent candles as part of their church services
during the four weeks before Christmas. The Candles symbolize that Jesus is the
Light of the World. There are four candles, one for each Sunday leading to Christmas
and a fifth candle for Christmas day. The four Sunday candles are usually tapers.
There are variations in the coloring of the candles, often there are three purple
and one pink candle. The purple represents repentance. The pink symbolizes joy.
The central candle is called the Christ candle and is not lit until Christmas day.
The First Candle (The Candle of Prophecy/Hope) The first candle is sometimes called
the candle of prophecy because it symbolizes the promises the prophets delivered
as messages from God; promises that foretold Christ’s birth. Others consider the
candle to be a symbol of the hope we have in Christ and so it is called the Hope
The Second Candle (The Candle of the Way) shows that Christ is the Way. Christians
are lost in sin and Christ is the Light sent into the world to show them the way
out of darkness.
The Third Candle (The Candle of Joy) indicates that the only lasting Joy to be found
in life on earth is through Christ. All other joy is fleeting and does not last.
The Fourth Candle (The Candle of Peace) reminds us that Jesus comes to bring Peace
to both the world and to people’s hearts. Without Christ there is no peace in this
The Fifth Candle (The Christ Candle or Christmas Candle) represents Christ himself
who was born to save people from their sins. It is a celebration of the fulfillment
of prophecy as represented in Christ’s birth and hope in the final fulfillment when
Christ comes again and Christians join him.
The Spirit of Advent
Advent is marked by a spirit of expectation, of anticipation, of preparation, of
longing. There is a yearning for deliverance from the evils of the world, first
expressed by Israelite slaves in Egypt as they cried out from their bitter oppression.
It is the cry of those who have experienced the tyranny of injustice in a world
under the curse of sin, and yet who have hope of deliverance by a God who has heard
the cries of oppressed slaves and brought deliverance! It is that hope, however
faint at times, and that God, however distant He sometimes seems, which brings to
the world the anticipation of a King who will rule with truth and justice and righteousness
over His people and in His creation. It is that hope that once anticipated, and
now anticipates anew, the reign of an Anointed One, a Messiah, who will bring peace
and justice and righteousness to the world.
Part of the expectation also anticipates a judgment on sin and a calling of the
world to accountability before God. We long for God to come and set the world right!
Yet, as the prophet Amos warned, the expectation of a coming judgment at the "Day
of the Lord" may not be the day of light that we might want, because the penetrating
light of God’s judgment on sin will shine just as brightly on God’s people.